You might have missed the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette’s October 17th editorial entitled Office-holder or candidate? which points out that Secretary of State Todd Rokita is spending millions in public funds to campaign for his next office.
And we would have too if we hadn’t caught Rokita lackey and chief of staff Scott Bowers’ indignant response letter in our Google search. We have to thank Mr. Bowers for drawing more attention to the issue.
The Journal-Gazette editorial was a crack piece of reporting on how Rokita is blanketing the state airwaves and internet bytes with his face and voice at taxpayer expense to build his campaign for his next run, presumably for Governor. Just look at the list of taxpayer funded campaigning he’s done in the form of a “scam awareness” program:
He has spent $543,000 this year on the program, expected to cost $1.5 million through next year. It includes a Web site, with a link to Rokita’s YouTube page, where you can watch a video in which the secretary of state makes a plea for the investment fraud program, introduces his wife and child and throws out the first pitch at an Indianapolis Indians game.
The series of public service commercials for the investment scam- awareness program ends with a message from Rokita himself and just a brief shot of a Web site address for more information – hardly a helpful tool for many of the elderly, often the victims of scams.
Earlier this year, the secretary of state spent $110,000 on a redistricting plan, spending $50,000 on proposed maps and $60,000 for a Web site, http://www.rethinkingdistricting.com , that prominently features Rokita himself.
Thanks to the Journal-Gazette for making us aware of his scam. It really is shameful that he cannot find a better use for the funds that, while technically not tax dollars but rather “fines and penalties,” (though we have heard many Republicans argue that all fines and penalties imposed by the state are taxes) the J-G is correct to point out that:
Given the state’s precarious economic picture, however, Hoosiers are justified in asking whether the slick campaigns are the best use of that money.
Hoosiers should also ask whether Rokita hasn’t found a way to bolster his own political profile by inserting himself prominently in information provided by his office.
There’s a fine line between enjoying the high profile incumbency offers and exploiting the title for political gain. Rokita’s frequent Twitter updates (“The students I spoke with at Butler U’s `Bulldogs for Life’ are active citizens and great examples for others,” “Looking forward to speaking with the leaders of the Holy Dove Foundation today. Then it’s off to Terre Haute for a Reagan Day Dinner.”) seem to cross that line.
The state constitution limits the secretary of state to two terms, which Rokita will have filled at the end of next year. Seeking higher office is certainly admirable, but Rokita should be aware that his obligations as an officeholder take precedence over his political future and that his activities raise questions about his dedication to his current post.
Bowers letter is a beautiful textbook example of drivelous toadyism. Simply stating that the programs were founded by the General Assembly, but leaving out that it was after copious lobbying by Rokita. But he cannot help but try to give Rokita credit for founding the Indiana Investment Watch program under which the publicly-funded campaigning is being performed.
Nowhere in Bowers’ campaign letter does he respond to the idea that maybe the public outreach could be better handled without the candidates face. We at ALO remember plenty of ads from the Secretary of State’s office for finding unclaimed funds that didn’t plaster his kisser all over the billboard or commercial. But then, those were out well ahead of his term limit.
It is very interesting that that the J-G points out that many Republicans say he has overstepped his authority in these publicly funded campaign efforts, but only in while he has co-opted the issues for himself. They don’t criticize the malfeasance of self-aggrandizement on the public dime.
We wonder who those Republicans are. We wonder if one might not be Lieutenant Governor Becky Skillman.
She would have to draw her criticism with a very fine line, since she is equally as guilty of this blatant misuse of public dollars. We have heard her voice on our radios and seen her face on our screens more recently at the taxpayers’ expense.
With 10 percent unemployment and every community budget having to cut services, they couldn’t find a way to use these funds in a more constructive and less politically self-serving way?
Apparently not. Why? Because they weren’t looking for the best use of the public’s resources for the public, but for themselves.